When one acts with authority, he does so under the authorization of one who has legal or rightful power. When he acts without authority, there is nothing to validate his actions.
While Jesus was in the temple the chief priests and elders came to him wanting to know by what authority he did his things and who had given this authority. Apparently, they thought they could silence him by showing that he lacked jurisdiction. They thought wrong! (Matt. 21:23-27.) As Jesus privately taught his disciples, all authority was given to him in heaven and in earth by God the Father. (Mt 28:18)
Many have failed to recognize man’s need for divine authority in religion. Reliance upon self or upon others may be the cause for this. The danger of relying upon self is seen in man’s inability to direct his steps (Jer. 10:23), and in his supposing a way is right when it leads to death (Prov. 14:12). The danger of relying upon others is shown in the Lord’s statement that the doctrines of men render our worship vain (Mt. 15:9). This failure of man to recognize his need for divine authority illustrates that he has failed to learn one of the basic Bible lessons governing acceptability with God. Man may go beyond God’s jurisdiction but if he does he goes alone (2 Jn. 9).
Abel acted by divine authority when he walked by faith (Heb. 11:7 f; Rom. 10:17), in offering a sacrifice from his flocks. Cain’s substitute was without divine jurisdiction and was rejected. Nadab and Abihu acted without divine authority when they offered strange fire, one which God “commanded them not,” and were slain for so doing (Lev. 10.1-2). The priests said to Uzziah, “It appertains not unto, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the Lord” (2 Chron. 26: 16-20). Uzziah may have thought that since this was a good work that he did not need divine authority, but when he acted without it he was smitten with leprosy.
Jesus taught the lesson in the parable of the wise and foolish builders (Mt. 7:24-27). The wise man heard and did, thus acted according to divine jurisdiction, whereas the foolish man heard and did not as instructed by divine authority. His house fell. The lesson is simple. When we act by divine authority, we build upon a solid foundation. When we act without it, we invite destruction.
Jesus prayed for unity (Jn. 17:20-21), and Paul plead for it (1 Cor. 1:10). But unity cannot be attained without a rule and this cannot be had without God’s authority to establish it. When we accept this and walk by the same rule which God establishes (Phil. 3:16), unity will exist. Reject God’s authority for establishing the rule and religious chaos and ruin will follow.
Man must respect divine authority by not going beyond that which was written and change not what God has authorized. (1 Cor. 4:6 ff; 2 Jno. 1: 9; Rev. 22:18-19; John 12:48) When we fail to respect the authority of the Lord’s Word we forfeit the fellowship of God, and our right to the blessings of a heavenly home. Man must speak as the oracles of God dictate (1 Pet. 4:11), and he is not at liberty to act in the absence of divine jurisdiction.
Those who scorn the need for divine authority in doctrine and practice overlook one of the basic lessons taught in both the Old and New Testaments__change God’s Word and die! Many alien brethren have forgotten that we have no legal or rightful power to engage in any religious practice, no matter how good it may appear in our own eyes, if there is no divine jurisdiction for the same. Doing so is to act without authority and to act without authority is to invite disaster utter destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power (Rev 22:18,19 f; 2 Thess 1 8,9).